Friday, May 25, 2007

beacon hill

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go to Beacon Hill Friends House in Boston as the last of 4 monthly speakers in their Young Friends Speaker Series. The topic they asked me to talk about was "calling," my own personal calling, how it impacts Friends, etc.

I had a great time in Boston, especially since I got to see some old f/Friends and make new friends. There were several people there who I had met at the World Gathering of Young Friends 2005, so it was great to be able to connect with them and introduce them to my wee one, Espen (who's almost 4 months old now, by the way!).

I enjoyed getting a taste of New England Yearly Meeting. It seems like Northwest and New England YMs have had a lot of good interaction over the years, and seem to be coming to a similar place from opposite sides. Maybe this is wishful thinking, but it seems like NEYM is coming from the liberal side, staying focused on social justice issues, and becoming more Christ-centered, and NWYM is coming from the evangelical side, staying Christ-centered and becoming more social justice oriented and refocusing on our Quaker heritage. It seems like we're meeting somewhere in the middle ("converging," if you will, for all of you out there who talk about Convergent Friends). Maybe not everyone from each of your YMs would be excited about this description, but many of us are excited to work together and listen and learn from one another.

I was a little bit nervous about going to Beacon Hill and talking a lot about Jesus and how following our calling means focusing on him. I thought it might be a little stronger language than most people there would be willing to hear. But it seemed like everyone present was really open to hearing Christ language and many would probably describe themselves as trying to follow Christ themselves. One person asked me in the question and answer time, "Did you consciously modify your language for us, or is that how you would talk at home? Because how you talked about things wasn't so different from how we would state things." That was encouraging to hear (although maybe they shouldn't have flown me all the way out there to tell them what they already know!).

I think it was helpful for people to hear what I had to say coming from someone from an evangelical YM, though, even if (perhaps especially if) it's not anything they don't already hear in their own YM. It seemed like one of the best things was just to realize that we're more similar than we are dissimilar. There are still, of course, things that our YMs would disagree about, but it's encouraging to know that there are kindred spirits working on the same questions and problems all over the Society of Friends.

If you want to read what I said, I've copied it below. I decided to write it all out and basically read it there, because I feel like I'm more courageous in writing than in just speaking extemporaneously, especially at something like that where I probably would have toned down the Christ language if I hadn't been reading it. It took about 45 minutes to read out loud, so it's rather long, but if you're interested go ahead and read it. At the end we broke into small groups and pondered some queries, then came back together and talked about what we'd talked about, and then there was time for questions, a lot of which were questions about what evangelical Friends believe and that sort of thing. It was a great time to be able to meet people and share my heart with them. I think it would be interesting to give the same talk in Northwest Yearly Meeting sometime. Anyway, here's approximately what I said:

I’m excited to be given the chance to come share my heart, my passion, and my sense of calling with you today. I hope you can receive the words I speak with the knowledge of my complete intention to be brutally honest with you and with myself about the message I felt led to share today. I hope, also, that you will be able to listen beyond the words I use and the language that may or may not be your preference, and hear the power of the Spirit behind the words, without which all these words are meaningless.

I’ll start off by telling you a little about myself and my experience among Friends. I’ll talk a little bit about the idea of “calling” in general, and specifically about my personal calling and how that connects to the Religious Society of Friends overall. At the end I will ask for you to get in small groups and talk about some queries around what you sense Friends are called to together in our time.

As has been said, I grew up in Northwest Yearly Meeting, which is an Evangelical Yearly Meeting made up of about 70 churches/meetings in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. I consider myself both a birthright and a convinced Friend.

When I was a kid my family went to a meeting they started with some of their friends. We went there until I was about ten or eleven, when we started going to a local Friends church, mostly because it had a great youth group.

When I was twelve, my dad decided he no longer believed in God, and my parents got divorced. So at that point I had a lot of thinking to do. I spent a lot of time wondering if I believed the stuff about faith and God and Jesus and everything that my dad had taught me, and that he now no longer believed himself.

Although at that point I don’t think I’d ever really heard George Fox’s convincement experience, I had an experience similar to his in eighth grade. I didn’t think about it at the time, but looking back I noticed that God became my constant friend and confidante. I asked God, “Are you there?” and God said, “Yes.” This wasn’t a particular experience, or a voice speaking out loud, but a sense of Presence that I felt with me through these difficult years of questioning, and pain from the break-up of my family and belief structure. As I came to this sense that God did indeed exist, I also received the sense that this God was the one spoken of in the Bible, and that Jesus was who the Bible says he is: in some inexplicable way, Jesus is the incarnation of God and incredibly important to our faith. As George Fox put it, “There is one, even Christ Jesus, who can speak to my condition.”

I continued involvement in Yearly Meeting activities throughout high school and into adulthood. I went to George Fox University. In college I spent time discussing with other Christians the things we found important about the Christian faith, and found that I truly am a Quaker, through and through. The Quaker distinctives of peace, equality, simplicity, and direct interaction with God are so important to me. I also appreciate the Quaker commitment to truly listen to God and one another, and the penchant toward community. I love being a Quaker! It is in Quaker communities that I have found the family that I lost in many ways when my parents divorced. It has been members of my Friends family who have encouraged me in my faith, to be who I truly am, and to minister as I am called.

Right now I live in Oregon with my husband and our new son. Right now I’m a pastoral intern, fulfilling my field education requirement for my masters of divinity degree. I’m currently taking a year off from seminary, where I will have a year and a half of school left when we return next winter. I don’t know exactly what I’m called to do after completing seminary—either be some sort of released minister (that’s what we call our “hireling” pastors!), or teach theology at a college.

I do know, however, that my calling will include some sort of ministry among Friends, because I have a deep burden for drawing Friends together across our many divisions. I’m sure many of you have thought about the fact that it’s pretty hypocritical for us to call the world toward peace and reconciliation when we can’t even get along with those closest to us on the denominational family tree! It seems to me that we as Friends have mostly lost our prophetic voice, and I think it is largely because of this division—or at least they are two symptoms of the same problem. We can’t speak Truth to others when we won’t listen to it ourselves.

To me this desire to draw Friends together feels like a calling. It’s not a calling that only I feel, fortunately—in the last several years I’ve met many other Friends with this desire, and there is good work already being done through Friends World Committee for Consultation, through the World Gathering of Young Friends 2005, through online conversations, and I’m sure through other means and individual connections.

This feels like a calling to me because it’s something that keeps coming up—it won’t go away. When I think of it, a mixture of joy and fear swirls in my chest. I get really excited and passionate. I have tons of desires and thoughts and ideas around it. I also get really discouraged, because it seems so big and so impossible. How can we ever learn to get along again? How can I even imagine people might change their ways and come together in unity? In some ways it feels presumptuous of me to tell people they need to change. But I know we as a Society of Friends need to recover our prophetic witness to the world, and in order for this to happen we need to listen to the prophetic voice rising from within. So although I don’t think of myself necessarily as a prophet, I think I am learning to hear the deep stirrings of the Spirit in our midst, stirrings that come from Friends with a profound spiritual hunger for Truth, for the joy and conviction of our predecessors, and for unity.

So I encourage us to listen to the Spirit and be willing to change. Let me say that again: I encourage us to listen to the Spirit, and be willing to change.

This is scary and takes forever. It’s much easier to just stay how we are, to keep doing things as we’ve always done them. And yet, to do things as we’ve “always” done them is to listen to the Spirit and to do what we hear. This doesn’t “always” look the same with each passing generation. In fact, I think we’re called to new things as the world around us changes. We have won some battles in the past and we no longer have to deal with legal slavery in this country, or for the right for women to vote. But these issues and others are still ongoing needs in our world in different ways: now although slavery isn’t legal, racism is still entrenched in our society, and the ability to earn a living wage is not available to all US citizens, let alone the whole immigration issue, and slavery in other countries. Women have nominal equality, but there is still a great deal of sexism going on in our country, and much more around the world. There is still much work to do, but it is not the same work as it was historically, or even the same work as it was for the past few generations.

I want to remind all Quakers of our shared roots. We’re a passionate movement based on following God completely and unreservedly. Originally our denomination was strongly based in Christ and the Bible. Quakers have always been inclusive and accepting, but also brooking no compromise. I love and am so proud of our history, but it seems like we’ve lost our focus. The focus of early Friends was on following Jesus Christ, their Inner Light and Present Teacher, and out of listening to Christ flowed their concerns for social justice, simplicity, equality, integrity, and all the things which have come to be known as our “distinctives.”

Friends did not create logical doctrines and proceed to legalistically follow those things. Instead they read the Bible with the Spirit of God, and lived out their lives in radical obedience to that Spirit. Do we still do this today? Generally I’ve seen Friends of different branches mostly living out our traditional forms of worship and testimonies because we’ve always done it that way. And yes, we do this because we definitely believe what we’re doing is right—we believe Friends are right that we should live peaceably with all, that we should not do the physical sacraments as a testimony to the fact that it’s the Spirit that matters instead of the physical act. But now we tend to just practice the forms of our beliefs instead of truly listening to Christ and acting on what we hear. We live peaceably by putting bumper stickers against war on our gas-guzzling cars. We wouldn’t be caught dead having physical sacraments in our meetings for worship, but we forget that all of life is a sacrament. Friends shouldn’t necessarily have to go to jail for our convictions anymore, but we should be willing to do so. If we don’t agree with the status quo, we should make stands on issues we believe in that might upset “the powers that be” enough to put us in jail! How many Friends do you know who have gone to jail recently for standing up for their beliefs?

Both sides of our Quaker divide need to change. I’ve noticed my Yearly Meeting worrying about “yoking ourselves with unbelievers,” and effectively pulling ourselves away from anyone who doesn’t profess Christ. But Jesus spent all his free time with those who were not religiously pure! How can Evangelicals think they deserve their name if they’re not willing to spend time with those who aren’t Christians? Who exactly are they evangelizing to, anyway? And how did Jesus evangelize? His mission statement came from Isaiah 61:1-2, and he read it in Luke 4:18-19:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because I have been anointed
to bring good news to the poor.
I have been sent to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Bringing good news—or evangelizing—happens through acting toward the poor in ways that release from captivity, give sight, free people from oppression, and proclaim God’s favor on them in physical, tangible ways. That means doing something besides going to church on Sunday. Evangelical Friends need to remember this mission statement, which early Friends knew so well.

Early Friends were passionate and "evangelical" (although it wasn’t called that at the time) because they were so excited about the Truth they'd found that they couldn't keep quiet about it. This Truth was that Jesus Christ was present and speaking directly to them, and out of this flowed their actions. This Truth was that Christ spoke a message of hope for this world, not just “pie in the sky by and by.” This Truth was that the God of the universe cared about the plight of all of us insignificant humans, and that our way to show love back to God is to love others around us.

Liberal Friends also need to change. You know what? I love the idea of being inclusive of everyone, but “inclusive” doesn’t have to mean “having no beliefs.” I hope we can truly love everyone. I hope everyone can feel welcome in our communities. But part of what attracted people to Friends in the early days was their uncompromising commitment to their faith. The early Friends lived out their belief in Jesus with so much integrity that no one could ignore it. They were Publishers of Truth, and that Truth was the joy and life-giving power they had found in Jesus Christ. This isn’t to negate anyone else’s spiritual experience or to speak against where others are at on the path, but I think as Friends we need to be willing and able to stand up for Truth no matter how unpopular it is. We can love and accept those who do not profess Christ, but we need to be willing to take a stand for Truth as we see it, and not give in to the relativism of our day.

For both these sides, these changes mean a new orientation toward the Bible. Early Friends had a profound knowledge of the Bible and used it in their preaching and writing. They were completely focused on Jesus as the Christ, who is a part of God, who gave them life and hope. But Christ also called them to social justice actions—not just for the sake of social justice, but because living out the truth they'd found required obedience to the whole gospel message. The “good news” Evangelicals talk about is not only that Jesus is the Christ, but that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus gives us hope. It’s that Jesus lived a life of marginalization, of advocacy for the poor and outcasts, and called his followers to do the same. Evangelicals (or anyone else for that matter) cannot follow a poor and marginalized Christ from a position of security and centrality and power.

The whole Bible is a story of liberation of oppressed peoples. I think early Friends noticed this, although perhaps they didn’t say it that way. But throughout the biblical record, God is constantly on the side of the oppressed and marginalized. God released the Israelites from slavery under Egypt in the story of the Exodus, and this event became the foundational story of God and God’s people. Through the Hebrew prophets God spoke time and again for the widows and orphans—for those most vulnerable in their society. When Jesus came, he spent time with “tax collectors and ‘sinners,’” those who the religious leaders of his day would not go near because they were seen as “unclean.” Jesus spent time with women and children, and chose a bunch of ignorant, unschooled men from the backwater town of Galilee to be his closest twelve friends and disciples. In the Beatitudes, Jesus gives a list of those who are blessed by God. He didn’t say, “Blessed are the ritually clean, those who follow the Law to the letter,” as the religious leaders expected. He didn’t say, “Blessed are those who read their Bible and pray a salvation prayer,” as Evangelicals might think. He also didn’t say, “Blessed is every path and everyone can do whatever they want.” Instead, he proclaimed as blessed those who are not generally loved by society, and said it is they who God sees and loves.

Here’s what he said:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The poor in spirit, the meek, those who mourn, the merciful, those who are persecuted—these are not generally seen as the cream of the crop! But Jesus said it is these who are blessed by God.

Jesus also said that it’s very difficult for rich people to enter the Kingdom of God—and I don’t think he just meant heaven. It’s very difficult for rich people to follow the ways of God in this life. Some people manage it, but Jesus said it’s more difficult for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s Kingdom. I don’t think of myself as very rich, because compared to many Americans I’m pretty poor. But of course, compared to others around the world, and even compared to many Americans, I’m extremely rich. My husband and I own a car and two computers. I’ve heard that that puts us automatically in the top 1% of the wealthiest of the world’s population. Am I willing to give up my comfort, my schedule, my addiction to using more resources than is sustainable, in order to follow God’s call? Are we as a Society of Friends willing to do so?

We as Friends have a rich heritage, which I’m very proud of. People hear the name Quaker and have good things to say. But this didn’t happen through Quakers sitting around being nice people. This mostly happened because Quakers were willing to take a stand when they saw injustice occurring. At the time they weren’t very popular, but looking back, people realize how right they were, and how noble it was that they were willing to be persecuted in order to bring those injustices to light. It seems like today we’re afraid to rock the boat. We like our nice reputation. We like it that people think favorably of us. We like it that we appear just like everyone else, except we’re better because we’re anti-war.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time—the fact that we just rest on our laurels, proud of our heritage, and yet afraid to really take a stand for anything now. I truly want to follow God’s call in whatever way it leads, but I’m also completely scared of doing so. It’s easy for me to stand here and bewail the ways of Friends today, but I’m as guilty as the next person of all of these things—and perhaps even more, because I talk about it and yet don’t do much differently. My husband and I have been talking recently about how to get past this seeming barrier between thinking and talking about what we know is true and right and that we should be doing, and actually doing those things. How do we get into a space where we really are willing to risk our security, our lives, our respectability, for the Truth we profess?

It’s easy to get discouraged, because we seem to be making so little progress, because we all say, “I’m just one person,” because we see so many problems that we don’t know where to begin.

But this topic of “calling” that you’ve been focusing on in this speaker series is really what’s important, I think. We don’t need to get overwhelmed, we don’t need to worry about the amount of progress we’re making, we simply need to focus on what it is that each of us is called to, and then do it. Fredrich Beuchner suggests that our calling is where our greatest passion and the world’s greatest need intersect. Let me say that again, and I’ll pause for a bit and let you think about what your greatest passion is: Your calling is where your greatest passion and the world’s greatest need intersect.

What is your greatest passion? What is the place in your life where you notice the most energy and joy and vibrancy when you do it? Where in your life does the creativity flow? When do you notice the presence of the Spirit?

For me this happens in situations like this, and when I write, when I feel like I am working to translate the sense of the Spirit I’m hearing or feeling into words that others can hear and understand. It also happens when I have conversations with people about the things in their life that give them joy and energy, when I can name that as the work of the Spirit in their lives. I get so excited when I hear the amazing and creative ways that God works through each of our personalities and individual circumstances to speak directly to our condition, and the condition of those around us. And this also happens when I say “yes” to following God in risky ways that are outside my comfort zone by serving others in unusual ways.

It’s hard to figure out where the world’s greatest need lines up with our own passions. As I see it, following our calling involves at least a few steps. The first and most important step is listening. We can’t hear the voice of God without listening. We also need to listen to the places of need in the world around us. This will look different for different people. For some, maybe there will be a physical voice from heaven, booming down in the middle of meeting for worship, “Your calling is…” But most of us aren’t that lucky! For some of us, maybe this listening is talking to F/friend about our spiritual lives and what we’re feeling drawn to. For some maybe it’s just taking some time each day to sit in silence. For some maybe it’s trying different things and being attentive to when we feel the most energy and passion.

For me, I need to take time in silence, on my own, to just sit and apparently do nothing. Although I don’t specifically hear God during this time, I’m creating space for God to work on me when I’m not focusing on anything else. Something internal happens in this time that doesn’t happen in the busier parts of everyday life.

I also meet with a “spiritual friend” on a regular basis. We talk about what’s going on in our lives, and try to listen together and for one another to the places where we notice energy and joy, and places that seem draining or desolate, or we attend to the patterns of joy or fear that keep coming up.

Second, I believe we need to refocus ourselves on the foundation of the hope we have, who is Jesus Christ. I think we will not regain our prophetic voice to the world unless we are able to focus on Christ together, without giving in to our culture’s relativism. Hopefully we can bring the message of Christ in fresh and new ways that connect with our culture and that are not damaging (as some Christian evangelism has been in the past), but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water—throw Jesus out just because some of his self-named representatives have not followed his ways! Hopefully we can see that God is at work in the lives of every person—they all have a spark of the Inner Light—but in order to fan the flame we need to focus on Jesus and the way he calls us to live. He calls us to releasing captives, helping the blind see, freeing the oppressed, and proclaiming God’s favor to the poor in tangible ways. Again, we need to listen to God in order to know how to do these things.

A third step in living out our calling is being involved in community, and creating space to listen together. Something I noticed when reading George Fox’s Journal lately was that Friends didn’t come together just to meet in silence. They came together to listen to the Spirit, and then they went out and did what they heard. Silence wasn’t an end in itself, a quiet space in the midst of a busy schedule. It was a time of “holy expectancy,” as Thomas Kelley later put it, where they expected to hear the voice of God and to be called to action. We still have this chance, and unprogrammed meetings for worship are a perfect place for this to happen, if we still have this holy expectancy. Do we really expect that God’s going to show up to our meetings? Do we really expect that we’ll be changed each time we meet together, that we’ll be challenged to follow in deeper ways? When we meet together, do we listen for what we’re called to together? Do we act on what we hear?

A fourth step is having the humility to lay down our own thoughts and desires, even our own sense of leading, to listen together as a community. We have to be willing to hear a fuller picture of God’s will through others, and to notice when our own sense is incorrect, biased, or just needs a bit of tweaking. I love meetings for clearness because of this. I have never been part of a meeting for clearness where the outcome was exactly the same as one of the options the individual or couple came to the meeting with. To me this is incredibly exciting, because through each other we can hear and understand God more fully than we can alone. Through groups God is able to communicate with us in more creative ways, ways that draw us outside the boundaries of our own thinking into something unique and transformative.

I believe that in order to truly follow our callings, we need each other. It’s incredibly hard to be counter-cultural by ourselves, and counter-cultural is what God tends to call people to. This isn’t just for the sake of being counter-cultural or different, but because the culture in which we live is not living as God would have us live. Societies usually end up being fairly self-centered and hierarchical, and God calls us away from these things, and calls us to love for others—even enemies—and treating each one with dignity and respect. In order to do this we need to build strong communities: communities where those who are drawn in feel they are supported and cared about, and where there is a counter-culture for doing what is right and good no matter what the cost.

I recently led a class on the Valiant 60, the sixty or so people who went out into England and the rest of the world spreading the good news of the joy and hope they’d found in Christ through the Society of Friends. I was wondering who today is in that Valiant 60. Are we as Friends listening in such a way that individuals like the Valiant 60 would actually go and preach this good news if that’s what they felt called to do? A person in the class commented that we can’t all be the Valiant 60, and conjectured that there was probably also the “Boring 600” at the time, those who supported the Valiant 60 by taking them meals in jail, taking care of their children and families while they were gone on trips, and generally leading normal lives in order to support those who were called out.

This is true, we do need both. But we still need people to be the “Valiant 60,” those called out to do God’s work in public ways, and we also need the “Boring 600,” people who sense that same vision and are willing to support it in sacrificial ways. In order for this to happen, we need to listen, together, to Christ. Perhaps if we had do we could follow alone, but it seems to me that God encourages us to work in communities. George Fox had his experience of God saying, “There is one, even Christ Jesus, who can speak to your condition,” but then he had a vision of a “great people to be gathered”—he wasn’t supposed to keep this profound experience to himself. He was supposed to go find a community of like-minded people who would work with him to bring this joyful message to the world. Even Jesus, the very Son of God, didn’t try to be faithful to God’s plan alone. He gathered a group of intimate disciples around him, and there was a large group of other disciples who followed him around, listened to him, took care of his needs, and ministered as they were directed. The night he was arrested he went to a mountain to pray, and asked along a few of his disciples to come pray with him as he sought God’s direction. Even Jesus Christ listened in community and then went out and acted.

So what are we listening for?

First I think we need to listen for ways to be reconciled to our brothers and sisters in the Quaker family, and in the wider Christian community. Where are places that we agree? What are the underlying issues that cause us to disagree on various issues? How can we be inclusive and loving without being watered down? How can we be sure of our convictions without being legalistic or fundamentalist? Hoe are we called to speak a prophetic word to one another? What prophetic words do we need to humble ourselves and hear?

Next we need to listen for how we’re called to follow Christ in ways that go against our culture. What injustices do we see? Which ones keep coming to the forefront of our thoughts and consciences? Which ones do we as a community have passion and energy around? For which ones do we have simple, effective steps that would begin to address the issue? What Truth do we feel so powerfully that we cannot keep it inside, but must publish it to the world? Where do we feel passion without cynicism, desire for justice without self-righteousness, energy for action on behalf of others without condescension?

We also need to be willing to give up our sense of entitlement to security. If we truly want God in control of our lives, we have to give up on the idea that we know what that life should look like. It is unlikely that we can follow God fully and still look like relatively normal middle class Americans. Are we willing to follow God for real—even in ways that don’t look rational to our culture, even in ways that disrupt our comfortable life, even in ways that force us to give up to God the security, freedom and independence we’ve come to see as our right?

On top of this I think we also need to allow ourselves to dream. What would the Kingdom of God on Earth look like? How would my life and yours change if we were living as if the Kingdom of God was a reality? This may be idealistic but it is also incredibly realistic. If we truly believe the Kingdom of God is present, here and now, not just “pie in the sky,” let’s live that way! That’s why it takes community—because alone it can feel so hopeless, like we’ll never make a difference, like why should I live as God calls us to if it won’t even make a dent in the world’s suffering?

Our history shows us that our small denomination has an immense power for good. We are a tiny group of people who have changed the shape of the world, not because we’re amazing people, but because we listen to God well.

Listening to God well is scary, because it requires transformation. When we encounter the Divine there is always change: we either change to resemble Christ more fully, or we change by walking away. Truly listening requires us to notice the places where we need work, and showing that we’re truly listening requires that we do something to change those things. Listening to God requires humility, recognizing we’ve all been going our own ways, not really following the path God would have us follow, for a long time. All branches of Friends need to change, need to listen to the prophetic voice rising from amongst ourselves, and have the humility to allow that prophetic voice to change us, to call us outside of our own self-propagation and self-centeredness as a denomination, to be willing to do the work of God whatever that work is, even if it doesn’t fit with the sense of self we’ve built.

Listening to God also takes courage. It takes courage to stand up against the status quo, against the unspoken power structures we’ve set up in our meetings and yearly meetings, and to hand the power back to God. It takes courage to say, “I choose to follow God. Who’s with me?” because what if no one’s with you?

This is where the “fear” part comes in for me—I told you this sense of calling is a mixture of joy and fear swirling inside me. I have this sense of calling, but honestly I'm scared to do anything about it. It might require me to not be liked in my "home town" of Quakerism if I speak up the prophetic witness I hear. I want people to like me, and I want to be able to continue ministering within my spiritual family. I don't want to challenge people beyond what they can bear, and I don't really want to change and not be able to live at the comfortable level I'm accustomed to. But in order to live out my sense of calling with integrity, I'm going to have to start speaking difficult messages, and not only speaking them but especially enacting them myself.

I need a community to journey with me in this process. I want to say, “I’m going to follow God. Who’s with me?” and for the entire Religious Society of Friends to jump on board with Christ at the helm. I have the deep, intuitive sense that I need to stay focused on Christ and the Bible in order to do this. I need to be willing to let go of my own expectations and desire to be liked or approved of by others, and be willing to focus only on what God is calling me to, and how to live that out in the healthiest, most complete way possible.

I'm also afraid because I hardly know where to start, except by speaking about how I'm feeling at places like this.

But there’s also an incredible sense of joy. I get so excited thinking about the possibilities of what we could do together! I get so excited about the idea of following God truly, not compromising by saying, “Well, I’m an American, I have no choice but to take up too many resources,” or that sort of thing. I get so excited thinking about living in a time of passion and energy like that of George Fox and the Valiant 60, or like the 19th century with the abolition and women’s rights movements. I get so excited thinking about us coming together as a community and living rightly. I know I can’t do this on my own—we need each other in order to follow God fully. So how are we feeling led together?

I’d like us to break into small groups of 4-6 and share around some queries. This will look something like worship sharing at first: take about 5 minutes in silence to center on the queries, then let everyone who would like to, share about what they’re hearing or noticing without anyone responding to others’ sharing. When everyone has had a chance to share, think about what patterns you notice, or what points of energy and passion you notice rising in yourself as you all shared. I’d encourage you to get in groups with people you don’t know very well, rather than the people you came with.

Queries:

What do you sense God is calling the Society of Friends to focus on in the next 100 years?
Where in your life do you notice places of resistance to living out your calling more completely?
Are you willing to let go of traditional Friends practices and forms in order to follow a prophetic new calling as a Society? What might this look like in your own life?
How do you feel called to hold the tension between being both inclusive and firm in your convictions about Truth?

14 comments:

Will T said...

Cherice,
Thank you for sharing what you said at Beacon Hill. You speak my mind. Not just my mind but my heart and the vision that I have as well of what the Society of Friens could be. Of what the Society of Friends is still called to be,if we will just be faithful. I am sorry that I was not able to come and hear your talk but I was at my daughter's graduation at Haverford.

Blessings to you,
Will Taber

Anonymous said...

Cherice,

I am glad I read your piece--it spoke my mind as well. There was so much that overlaps with themes in my recent thinking and worship. The idea of transformation, for example, was heavy with me as I sat in worship this evening. There are many other points I could mention, but do so, I would need to re-read this more slowly and carefully.

Have you considered submitting it to Friends Journal?

Why do you think you would water down the Christ language if you didn't have it written out?

Peace,
David

forrest said...

Yes, a good thoughtful piece.

I'm trying to get people into a communal blog on matters like this--and while there are many people I hope will know I"d like them there, too many for me to specifically invite them all--that doesn't apply to you.

I mean, please have a look and think about blogging together! (And other readers, sure, why not?)

That's-- A Quaker Watering Hole
which is not only related to what you said about "community", but starts out with a piece related to much you're talking about here.

And we still need more good folks on Friendly Scripture Study

Anonymous said...

I read every post, but I never comment. I'm writing today to say: yes, absolutely you should send this to Friends Journal. With a little polishing, it could be one of the best pieces on modern Quakerism I've read.

cherice said...

Thanks for the encouragements about submitting this to Friends Journal. I'll look into that!

I'll also look into the Quaker Watering Hole--sounds like an interesting idea.

Will, I hope your daughter's graduation was fun!

David, as far as editing out the Christ language if I hadn't read, I think I would have tried to be more "politically correct" for the sake of the FGC people I was speaking to, but they seemed not to mind anyway, it was just my perception of what they would think that was the problem. (Also, perhaps, the people who came to hear an evangelical Friend were probably those who were more comfortable with Christ language...I don't know that for sure, though.)

Ben said...

Thanks, Friend.

Thee spoke to my condition!

If you are interested, I have some similar thoughts posted at http://actorsway.com/cblog/index.php

Here are my queries: how much greater could we be if we closed up the divisions? How much more closely could we walk with Jesus? How much more powerful could our testimonies be witnessed on earth?

Go with God Friend!

forrest said...

You can erase this when you've read it--but I really did intend you invite you, specifically, in particular, and I can't do it without an email address for the site to direct the invitation to.

Anonymous said...

Hello Cherice and to all those who claim to be Quakers today,

I read what you wrote and stopped at about the reference to Princeton. Jesus Christ said, "It is written in the Prophets: They will all be taught by God." Unless you are taught by God, there is no salvation no matter what you may hear from some carnally minded human. Where, in the NT or in the writings of the first true Christian Quakers of 350 years ago, do we read that they went to colleges, universities or seminaries after they were saved except maybe to witness against those places? Don't you people know that 350 years ago the first true Christian Quakers proved these institutions were all false along with all of their steeple houses?! Yes, they are all false and they didn't change except for the worse.

The first true Christian Quakers were prophesied to come almost 2000 years ago in Rev 3. They perfectly fit the Philadelphia church in Rev 3, the last large group of true Christians before the wrath of God and the wrath of the Lamb comes against the whole earth and most of its people. Why? Because God's simple exact original Gospel Truth has been trampled on by almost everyone who claims to follow it but doesn't! Jesus Christ came so people would sin no more but it hasn't happened. People love to sin and do their own thing, not what God created them to do.

People, people, people, why are you all out to destroy yourselves forever? Jesus Christ said we must seek first God's Kingdom and God's Righteousness. Listen to Him! Time is running out. Life as we know it will soon come to a screeching halt, especially in the usa. The Quakers of 350 years ago had a very good idea of who the Daughter of Babylon is but during their lifetimes on this earth, they could not imagine that virtual harlot would become the real thing beginning with those 13 little colonies. 9/11 was even prophesied, to the very day, 2700 years ago. None of you know where, do you? Wake up, you people who merely call yourselves Quakers but are not. Time is fast running out.

Contact me if you like and remember, a true Christian never declares God's exact original Gospel Truth for money, never. Now you can identify almost everyone who is false. Seek first God's Kingdom and God's Righteousness. Believe, repent and obey what the real Jesus Christ commands and then warn others who are on the wide road to eternal destruction, anne robare / canawedding at aol dot com

cherice said...

Anne,

Thank you for your post. I can't say that I agree with all of it, but you make some good points.

First of all, I think it is very dangerous to say that we can know for sure what the prophecies in the Bible speak of in our world today. Jesus said to be ready, but that we will not know the time or place of his return. Many of the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures referred to things in their time as well as later. Many people have thought they were living in the times prophesied of in Revelation and have been incorrect. I don't know why we should be any different. Perhaps this is that time, but we are unlikely to know if it is. Trying to figure out the time and place of Jesus' return is idolatry. We are just to live lives of readiness daily.

Second, yes, I am working on a degree at Princeton, but I don't think it's necessary in order to speak and act as a minister of God. I feel called to attend school there, to learn what I can, and try to be attentive to the Spirit in that place as I am elsewhere. I think George Fox and the early Friends were right to say that a theological education is not a prerequisite to knowing and hearing God. But it can be helpful in learning things about the Bible, in thinking about faith questions, and in being trained in leadership skills. For some, seminary isn't necessary. On my own path I feel like it's something God has called me to do.

On the topic of true Christians never declaring the Gospel for money, I think you're right. But I also think there's a difference between being a "hireling" pastor and being a "released" minister. It's a fine line, and sometimes I think we as pastoral Friends don't always do a good job of not crossing the line. But the goal is that we all want to do the will of God, minister as we are called, and for some of us that means full time ministry that keeps us from having time to work a paying job. If the community feels this work is what that person is called to do and the community has the resources to release that person to do that work, I think that's great! We all need food and shelter, and providing those for people who minister among us is a gift we can give to honor the gift God has given us through that person's ministry.

This of course is difficult, because then there is always the temptation for the community to think, "We're paying you so you should do what we want," rather than releasing that person to do what God wants them to do. But in theory, I think it's good to pay ministers a living wage so they can do the work to which they are called.

Chris M. said...

Nice reply, Cherice. I like your reminder that we are to "live lives of readiness daily."

Anne has left a string of similar comments on several Quaker blogs lately, and previously on other faith blogs. The message is largely the same each time. It's nothing personal, it's directed at all of us.

-- Chris M.

Anonymous said...

cherice: Anne, Thank you for your post. I can't say that I agree with all of it, but you make some good points.

anne (canawedding) replies to cherice: Thanks for your reply although i was not aware of it except through another blogger's comments. I would like to respond below to your reply:

cherice: First of all, I think it is very dangerous to say that we can know for sure what the prophecies in the Bible speak of in our world today.

anne: Of course, because you do not know what it is like to have God's Word written on your heart and in your mind as all truly saved Christians must have in order to be saved. In Jn 8, the real Jesus Christ told everyone that if we hold on to His Teaching we will know the Truth and His Truth will set us free from sin. Are you calling Him a liar? In Jn 14-16, the real Jesus Christ said He would send us His Holy Spirit who will teach us all things and bring His Teachings to our remembrance. Are you calling Him a liar? In Mt 10, the real Jesus Christ said what is whispered in our ear we must proclaim from the rooftops. Are you telling Him what He can or cannot tell His true disciples to do?

cherice: Jesus said to be ready, but that we will not know the time or place of his return.

anne: Where did i give the time or place? All will see the real Jesus Christ when He does return on the clouds and all will mourn. When? I have never said exactly when and i never will but we can know by the signs that He gave us whether or not that time is very near and the signs declare that time is very near. True Christians will repeat what is revealed by God, not their own opinions. One sign was given to us about 2500 years ago in Dan 12: When the Power of the Holy People is finally broken, then the end will come. From my experience, that statement appears to have been true for some time now. What is written in Mt 24; Mk 13; Lk 21 also make it clear that the time is very near. Do i know the exact time, the very day, the exact year? No, i do not and i never said i did. (It is very clever of you to try to make an issue out of a non-issue to detract from the issues you wish to avoid but you have failed.) However, 9/11 was prophesied 2700 years ago, to the very day and the exact place was accurately described. Why don't you tell everyone where and expound that entire chapter? How about those so-called experts that you trust in? Ask them to tell you but i already know they cannot since they are false teachers. Now, something that big, that important is something they should all know about. Why don't they? Why don't you know or the other so-called Quakers of these Last Days, who have had free access to excellent works of God's true servants--like what Robert Barclay wrote, that you have all ignored to your own condemnation?

cherice: Many of the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures referred to things in their time as well as later. Many people have thought they were living in the times prophesied of in Revelation and have been incorrect. I don't know why we should be any different. Perhaps this is that time, but we are unlikely to know if it is.

anne: Says who? The first true Christian Quakers warned about the false teachers in the steeple houses and in all of their related false institutions. What have you done? You went and studied in one of their false institutions, learning from those who take money for what they do when the Quakers, you only claim to follow, made it very clear that true Christians will never teach for filthy lucre. You do not even understand the most simple teachings of those you only claim to follow but you do not follow them at all. What in the world makes you think you understand the Scriptures or what those first true Christian Quakers wrote? What you wrote is true only of people like you, who have turned your back on the exact original Gospel Truth that the first true Christian Quakers repeatedly wrote about. God sends a powerful delusion to people who have done what you did-- who go to the servants of Satan to get your worldly education, the same worthless worldly wisdom that God warned He will destroy along with those who love it. We must go to Him for His anointing that must teach us all that we need to know about salvation but you haven't done that. Robert Barclay and the rest of the first true Christian Quakers understood this very well as he wrote about it in his Apology.

cherice: Trying to figure out the time and place of Jesus' return is idolatry. We are just to live lives of readiness daily.

anne: Your worldly education is a form of idolatry as is your false gospel.

cherice: Second, yes, I am working on a degree at Princeton, but I don't think it's necessary in order to speak and act as a minister of God.

anne: Satan masquerades as an angel of Light but he isn't and his servants masquerade as servants of Righteousness but they are not. You will never, ever be "a minister of God" until you follow Paul's example in Php 3 and trash everything your false teachers have taught you and then you must start over as a baby on milk.

cherice: I feel called to attend school there, to learn what I can, and try to be attentive to the Spirit in that place as I am elsewhere.

anne: We were all commanded to test the spirits but it certainly appears that you didn't do anything of the kind. God's Holy Spirit would never, ever, send you to His worst enemies to get an education!!!!!! The real Jesus Christ said it and He is the Gospel Truth from God: It is written in the Prophets--they will all be taught by God! Do you really think God would send you to false teachers who have been proven to be teaching lies for over 300 years by the very first Quakers?! God's worst enemies are those who claim to follow Him but do not, especially false teachers! Do you think you can go to them, learn from them and receive their stamp of approval on what you learned and then go out and claim that you have God's approval when you never will if you continue as is in their lies?! Paul said it and all other true Christians will also say it: If we were still trying to please people, we would not be servants of Jesus Christ! So, who are you trying to please? Today's Quakers have to be the laughing stock of those phony institutions! You are all very likely being called Quacks behind your backs! That is the only thing they will have gotten right!

cherice: I think George Fox and the early Friends were right to say that a theological education is not a prerequisite to knowing and hearing God. But it can be helpful in learning things about the Bible, in thinking about faith questions, and in being trained in leadership skills. For some, seminary isn't necessary. On my own path I feel like it's something God has called me to do.

anne: Not the Almighty God, who created the Heavens and the earth, He is not the One who would call you to do that, ever. The only time He would send you there is to preach against those false teachers for sending people to the fires of hell with their lies. The real Holy Spirit of God expects to be your Teacher! Faith? Faith as God defines it is believing in the unseen and that school you attend is quite visible. Read Ps 119; Mt 23:8-12; Jn 6:45; Heb 11:1,6; 1Jn 2.

cherice: On the topic of true Christians never declaring the Gospel for money, I think you're right. But I also think there's a difference between being a "hireling" pastor and being a "released" minister. It's a fine line, and sometimes I think we as pastoral Friends don't always do a good job of not crossing the line.

anne: The only line you must cross before you can even dare to call yourself a Friend of God is to believe exactly what the real Jesus Christ said and believe the One who sent Him. The person who has done that, has already crossed over from Death to eternal Life according to the real Jesus Christ. Read Jn 5; Php 3.

cherice: But the goal is that we all want to do the will of God, minister as we are called, and for some of us that means full time ministry that keeps us from having time to work a paying job.

anne: What is it about Mt 6:24-34 that you do not understand? And, Jesus Christ said we must seek first God's Kingdom and God's Righteousness. First means first. What must we find first? True Christians, especially the ones of 2000 years ago, never had an education such as you are working on and they were usually saved in a very, very short time and they were ready to witness within minutes after the Gospel Truth was revealed to them. What ever happened to you and to those you have decided to learn from?! Read what Robert Barclay wrote about immediate revelation. What must we find when we seek first God's Kingdom and God's Righteousness? If you do not know, then how can you claim that you are doing the right thing by attending a place similar to the very throne of Satan as described in Rev 2-3?!

cherice: If the community feels this work is what that person is called to do and the community has the resources to release that person to do that work, I think that's great! We all need food and shelter, and providing those for people who minister among us is a gift we can give to honor the gift God has given us through that person's ministry.

anne: What "community" are you talking about? The real Jesus Christ is going to determine who is a goat or who is a sheep by spiritual words and works done through His Power. How will you help someone who thirsts for God's Righteousness? How will you help someone who hungers for God's Righteousness? The phony believers in the Last Days are neither hot about God's Gospel Truth or cold to their worldly sinful natures because they remain in the desires of their flesh. The real Jesus Christ threatened to vomit them out of His Mouth! The prisioners Jesus Christ was describing are prisoners of sin and Satan's darkness. How will you help to set them free as every true Christian is called to help in some way or another? True Christians are clothed with the Power and Righteousness of their Lord Jesus Christ but false Christians, who are not, are pitiful, naked and doomed to the Lake of Fire. How will you help to clothe willing listeners with the Power and Righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ? The spiritually blind cannot see. How will you help to give them spiritual salve to open their eyes? The spiritually deaf cannot hear. How will you help to spiritually open their ears? The spiritually lame cannot walk in God's exact original Gospel Truth and thereby they are not in His Love. How will you help to heal their spiritual legs so they can spiritually walk through the narrow Gate and down the narrow Road? What is that narrow Gate and narrow Road? How do we find it? Ask your so-called experts to answer these simple questions and you will get nothing but lies, if anything at all. Who do you think you are fooling, cherice? You cannot fool God. Your heart and what is really in your mind are exposed and you are on the wide road to eternal destruction in the Lake of Fire. Get off of that road! Start over!

cherice: This of course is difficult, because then there is always the temptation for the community to think, "We're paying you so you should do what we want," rather than releasing that person to do what God wants them to do. But in theory, I think it's good to pay ministers a living wage so they can do the work to which they are called.

anne: God hasn't called you to do anything yet but give up the lies, run away from the hypocrites, scorpions, snakes, vipers and then start over as a baby on milk with Him as your Teacher. The good thing about my warnings is that you now have time to change. The bad thing is that if you reject the plain and simple warnings, you have increased your future punishment. False teachers, who mislead others, especially young people, will be punished most severely. If you continue as is, you will have a most horrific eternity ahead of you. You have been warned for your very own good by a true Christian in true Christian Love as God defines His Love, anne robare

Peter B-P said...

Hi Cherice.
When I heard you were coming to Beacon Hill I really wanted to come even though I live a couple of hours away, but a family reunion got in the way, so I was delighted to find your talk posted here.
I have so much to say on all you said. Leave it for now to say that I am deeply grateful to see once again the fruits of God's work among Northwest YM Friends. I fully agree that I think God is leading both some Evangelical Friends and some Friends from YMs such as New England (but also many others) to a similar place from very different starting points. Praise the Lord...
Peter

Anonymous said...

When God said He would turn the wisdom of the world into foolishness, the fake Quakers must have been first in line. Over 300 years ago, Robert Barclay, through God's Power, wrote one of the most important books ever printed, very likely the most important book ever printed after the Holy Bible and who of you fake Quakers understands that book today? Who of you fake Quakers even tries to understand that book today? Over 300 years ago Robert Barclay proved the so-called churches and all of their related institutions are false as did many of the other true Christian Quakers of 350 years ago. Not only that, he proved Calvinists, of whom i thankfully was able to escape from, were nothing but blasphemers of God and Jesus Christ. Then these same blasphemeres continued to build false institutions that have already been proven false and anti-Christ by the first true Christian Quakers, including Princeton. Princeton was built on blasphemy against God and Jesus Christ. That Biblical fact being made clear over 300 years ago by the true Christian Quakers, including Robert Barclay, but now we have a popular person who calls herself a Quaker attending this institution built on blasphemy, proven to be built on blasphemy by someone she claims to follow but ignores so she can go to that place where they built on blasphemy to get a stupid piece of paper they value, a paper that the first Quakers would burn immediately. Then she wants to turn around and teach what this place taught her, a place proven to teach blasphemy over 300 years ago by true Christian Quakers that she claims to follow. She wants to pass on this blasphemy to others and not only for free but they are going to pay her to pass on this blasphemy! Now, people, what have you done?! Where in the world to you think you will spend eternity?!

1Co 1:19. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the discernment of the discerning will I bring to nought.
20. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

I will suggest to you, Cherice, that you read Robert Barclay's Apology repeatedly until you understand it. However, you will never understand it until you leave the institution of blasphemy that you are in now and trash everything they taught you. anne robare canawedding at aol dot com PS Remember, i learned what the first true Christians Quakers wrote 3 and 1/2 years before i knew what they believed or read what they wrote and that includes the Apology i did not ever see until last year.

richard said...

I'm curious as to what anonymous is doing for the world...anyone can criticize but is anonymous actually doing something for God and others or just living in his/her little cocoon and ranting and raving...maybe they should quit reading Barclay's apology and actually follow Biblical teachings.
rbb